U.S. Strike an “Enormous Coup” for Taliban

n Friday, a German ground commander called in a U.S. airstrike on two stolen fuel tankers in northern Afghanistan. Dozens of civilians had gathered around the tankers and Afghan officials say 70 or more were killed by the American bombs.

Official investigations have ramped-up to determine which of the two NATO allies — German or the U.S. — made the tragic error that led to the misguided strike. But, regardless of the inter-NATO finger-pointing, the real consequences won’t wait for the investigation findings. Nor can the real work to try and make amends to the Afghan people.

CBS News consultant Jere Van Dyk is an expert on the Islamic fundamentalist movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan who has travelled extensively along the volatile border region.

Van Dyk said it really doesn’t make any difference whom, exactly, is to blame for the airstrike. In the minds of most Afghans, “they are all infidels, they’re all outsiders and they’re all suspect, and so it really doesn’t make any difference.”

Above: Rahmatullah, 19, a victim of Friday’s NATO airstrike, tries to sit up on his bed in a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 5, 2009.

“We have a terrible tragedy on two levels,” Van Dyk told CBS Radio News. “One, so many people were killed. Secondly, it’s a coup for the Taliban. It’s a black mark for NATO and its allies.”

Van Dyk said the deadly airstrike couldn’t have come at worse time for American military strategists.

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